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Dear Parents,

A telomere is a region of repetitive nucleotide sequences at each end of a chromosome, which protects the end of the chromosome from deterioration or from fusion with neighboring chromosomes; thus states Wikipedia.

What has recently become known is that certain stressors that  impact our endocrine system, metabolic system, and autonomic nervous  system give rise and in turn cause additional cycles of chromosome replication and cellular division. 
With each cycle of chromosome replication and cellular division most telomeres will continue to shorten. Telomere length may be a particularly useful biomarker when assessing health in pediatric populations, because disparities in telomere length emerge before the manifestations of chronic health conditions in adulthood.

Thus, in essence, and with rare exception, we can predict how quickly we are aging by examining the length of our chromosome's telomeres.

In a recent study published in  JPEDS (The Journal of Pediatrics;  James, McLanahan, Brooks-Gun August  2017) it was found that children with shorter sleep durations had shorter telomere length than children with longer sleep durations.  The findings of this study were consistent with the broader literature  indicating that suboptimal sleep duration is a risk for increased physiologic stress and impaired health.

In "
Zombie Prevention, Your Child's Sleep,"  Jane Brody wrote in the NY Times that she suspects few of our adolescents are getting an amount of sleep recommended for their health and well being.
Children for the most part, and even adolescents, require more sleep than do adults, though of course these needs will vary on a case by case basis.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, newborns should sleep 12 to 18 hours out of every 24 (every new parent hopes), with a gradual reduction to 12 to 14 hours for toddlers ages 1 to 3; 11 to 13 hours for preschoolers 3 to 5; and 10 to 11 hours for schoolchildren ages 5 to 10. Teenagers will still require 8 to 10 hours of sleep as well.

Please also reference the figure below: "Typical sleep requirements of children" from Ferber's classic  1987 article discussing sleep patterns.

What else can we learn  from telomere length?

A new study from Belgium has demonstrated that "EXPOSURE TO AIR POLLUTION BEFORE BIRTH MAY SHORTEN OUR LIVES."
In this study particulate matter (pollution) was measured in the air of homes of pregnant prospective mothers. Shorter telomere lengths were found in placentas and cord blood of prospective mother's whose homes were found to have more pollution.

Obviously we can not weed out exposure to all pollution. We can, however,be proactive in exposure for instance to second and third hand tobacco smoke. Additionally the EPA ( environmental protection agency) rates outdoor smog and pollution locally using an Air Quality Index (AQI) which is readily available  on a daily basis. It would behoove all of us, pregnant and otherwise, to avoid exposure to pollution, avoid tobacco exposure, and to stay indoors on days with a high air quality Index.

Yes, with each day,  we are learning more and more about our bodies. And yes, control of pollution, management of stress, and lifestyle changes including but not limited to proper quantities of sleep just may allow us to live healthier richer lives.

Doctor Nass and his staff remain committed to providing the highest level of pediatric care, combining expert training, the latest medical technologies and over 25 years of experience serving the community.

You can reach our office at (718)520-1070 for all of your pediatric needs.
Check us out at   www.doctornass.com 

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Howard Nass MD FAAP and staff